Irish Republican News · July 19, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Soccer team attacked in north Belfast

Members of a north Belfast soccer team have been left with injuries including stab wounds and a broken leg after being attacked by a loyalist mob.

The men were among a group of around 30 from Crumlin Star Football Club returning from a coach trip to Dundalk races when they were attacked.

Among those injured was 31-year-old footballer Anthony Braniff who suffered facial injures, requiring three stitches above his left eye.

Another player was left with a broken leg and fractured foot after being punched to the ground and set upon by three loyalists who held him down while one man jumped on his leg until it broke.

Mr Braniff said they had got off the coach in the residential area in order to avoid trouble which had broken out following an Orange Order parade earlier that day.

“The club would organise a bus run every year for players and club members just to get us away from the area on the Twelfth and this year it was to Dundalk races,” he said.

“We’d had a great day but when we were almost home the coach driver got a bit nervous in case we ran into bother so we said it was okay to drop us at Alliance Avenue.

“I’d just got off the bus and started to walk up the road when the gang came running out of a nearby street.

“They were armed with golf clubs, knives and bottles and just started attacking us.

“There were more then 30 of them and while there are people badly hurt as a result it’s lucky someone wasn’t killed.”

Ciaran Smyth, who suffered bruising after being attacked with a golf club as he came to a friend’s aid, said the loyalist gang was intent on causing serious injury.

“I’m a member of the Crumlin Star but would play for a cross community football team,” he said. “We had been to the races so were all wearing shirts and ties, it wasn’t as if we were in Celtic shirts or in some way provoking them.

“It was still daylight when we were attacked. Most of them were wearing Rangers football shirts.

“We had left north Belfast for the day to get away from the Orange Order march and all the bother that goes with it and yet came back to this.

“Only there was so many of us and we were able to get away it could have ended much worse.

“That gang were out to cause serious injury or even kill the first Catholic they came across and it just happened to be us.”

A spokesman for the PSNI confirmed the attack had taken place but said a motive had “yet to be established”.

In a separate incident, another man suffered damage to his sight and hearing when he was assaulted in central Belfast as the main Twelfth parade was returning. The 39-year-old is still in hospital after sustaining head injuries and broken bones in his hand on Donegall Place, near City Hall.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News